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Cate Blanchett makes a mockery of Marina Abramović

7 March 2019

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories

Cate Blanchett has proved her acting chops once more – this time with a pitch-perfect impersonation of Marina Abramović. In the latest episode of the IFC mockumentary series Documentary Now!, ‘Waiting for the Artist’, Blanchett plays Izabella Barta – a Hungarian performance artist with long black hair, razor-sharp cheekbones and a mega-star reputation built on feats of suffering and endurance.

Barta’s most famous work is The Bucket Series, a riff on Abramović’s Rhythm 0. Male audience members are invited to place various hazardous objects on the floor of a gallery (‘mousetraps, roller skates and so on’), which Barta enters with a smiley-faced bucket on her head. The artist immediately trips and falls to the floor. As one of the documentary’s talking heads explains: ‘that façade, that smiling bucket, is what it means to be a woman.’

It is during her performance of The Bucket Series that Barta meets her future lover and collaborator: the insufferable art provocateur Dimo Van Omen, played by Fred Armisen (who readers may remember as one half of the very strange, weirdly sweet art-collecting couple Nuni and Nuni Shoener from the Saturday Night Live skit ‘The Art Dealers’). When they break up over his repeated infidelities, Dimo and Barta create Stairwell, a parting performance in the Empire State Building. Barta climbs up – and up and up – the stairs to meet him on the middle level (yep, it’s a vertically tilted version of Abramović and Ulay’s epic walk along the Great Wall of China) while Dimo chats up some women, then falls asleep in an elevator…

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